Contesting fraternité: vulnerable migrants and the politics of protection in contemporary France
This paper analyses the délit de solidarité debate through the discourse of politicians, NGOs and citizens. Through this it seeks to answer the following questions: (i) what role has the republican principle of Fraternité played in debates over vulnerable migrants in contemporary France? (ii) to what extent does the political instrumentalisation of the principle of Fraternité and the related concept of Solidarité reflect a broader tension in the way French citizens understand their responsibilities towards “outsiders”, between particularism and universal obligation? The argument proceeds in four parts. Chapter 1 traces the tension between particularism and universalism historically to the foundation of the French nation-state and its republican philosophy of citizenship. Chapter 2 offers an empirical analysis of the délit de solidarité debate as a case study for the ambiguity outlined in Chapter 1. It examines legislation and policy in light of critiques advanced by various institutional and civil society actors in order to explain the issue’s politicisation and elevation to a matter of national concern. Chapter 3 analyses the discourse of the government and opposition throughout the debate whilst Chapter 4 considers the shortcomings of the nationalist framing outlined in Chapter 3 through an examination of the marginalisation of non-citizens as well as alternative discourses of solidarity. On the basis of this analysis it is argued that the délit de solidarité debate politicised concerns regarding the protection of vulnerable non-citizens in France, reducing the issue to a debate over the rights and reputation of French citizens and the scope and substance of Fraternité.